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Nirvana

While the Grohl family had always been musical—the family sang together on long car trips, harmonizing to Motown and David Bowie— Virginia never expected her son to become a musician, let alone a rock star. But when she saw him perform in front of thousands of screaming fans for the first time, she knew that rock stardom was meant to be for her son. And as Virginia watched her son’s star rise, she often wondered about the other mothers who raised sons and daughters who became rock stars. Were they as surprised as she was about their children’s fame? Did they worry about their children’s livelihood and wellbeing in an industry fraught with drugs and other dangers? Did they encourage their children’s passions despite the odds against success, or attempt to dissuade them from their grandiose dreams? Do they remind their kids to pack a warm coat when they go on tour?

Virginia decided to seek out other rock star mothers to ask these questions, and so began a two-year odyssey to write From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars in which she interviewed such women as Verna Griffin, Dr. Dre’s mother; Marianne Stipe, Michael Stipe of REM’s mother; Janis Winehouse, Amy Winehouse’s mother; Patsy Noah, Adam Levine’s mother; Donna Haim, mother of the Haim sisters; Hester Diamond, Mike D of The Beastie Boys’ mother.

With exclusive family photographs and a foreword by Dave Grohl, From Cradle to Stage will appeal to mothers and rock fans everywhere.

This is part 62 of an ongoing series where the kind folk of the music business reveal their favourite album of all time.

Ask people in the music industry the seemingly simple and straightforward question, “What is your favourite album of all time?” and you’ll find that it’s not always easy. After all, my industry peers listen to hundreds of albums a month and thousands of songs during that time. Because the question isn’t the best album of all time or the one that’s made them the most money in sales, or the most clicked-on review, but the one release they personally can’t live without, that one title they have two copies of in several formats, in case one breaks. It’s also about that album that for them has the best back stories and the one that has the most meaning in their lives.

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Joe Cassady, Mornings, 92.9 WLMI, Lansing, Michigan
Chicago, Chicago Transit Authority
There are familiar titles like “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” and “Beginnings”. My favorite cut was “Questions 67 and 68”. I like this album a lot because it contains great Chicago music that wasn’t played to death on Top 40 Radio. I played it so much, I wore down two copies.

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Larry Crane, Tapeop
Joy Division, Unknown Pleasures
As a musician and producer/engineer I’ve learned tons from this album. How to completely change what a band is doing into a studio creation. How to play against open strings on a bass. How to put together a classic album cover.

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Larry Groce, Host & Artistic Director of NPR’s Mountain Stage
The Band, The Band
It was a close call between this one, The Band’s “Music from Big Pink”, and several Dylan and Beatles albums. I’ve been a fan of all three since their beginnings. When I was 17, I went to the September 25, 1965 concert in Dallas which I believe was one of the first with Dylan and The Band together. I chose “The Band” over the others because its songs are both northern and southern, they’re folk, rock, and country. They come from where Europe met Africa but they don’t exclude what was already here. Their lyric images get to the heart of some important parts of North American culture.

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Confusion, Pigeons & Planes
Nirvana, Unplugged in New York
I know, this isn’t even really a proper album. Whatever. When I think about albums that really mean something to me, this one always tops the list. It has nothing to do with the quality of the music and everything to do with the connection I felt with these 14 songs. I listened to this album non-stop during some important years of my life. I was an immature pre-teen, and I didn’t get into Nirvana until after Kurt Cobain was already dead. I didn’t get to experience the cultural impact of Nirvana in real-time, but for me, discovering that album came at the perfect moment in my life. I grew up with those songs, and I probably changed more as a person in those couple of years than any other period of my life. Unplugged in New York was the soundtrack to those years. I’d never argue that this is the best album of all time. Shit, it’s not even the best Nirvana album. But none of that really matters when you’re talking about favorites.

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Mase Brazelle, FMQB
The Clash, London Calling
Because they were the only band that mattered.

I’ve been around plenty of artists who are vibrant, talkative and superb interviees at 10:00am. By 6:00pm, they want to kill both the media outlet, and myself.

Now imagine you’re Nirvana, and Nevermind has just been released. Everyone is calling you the voices of a generation, the saviours of rock and roll, the greatest thing since Elvis. And you don’t want to hear it anymore.

Fecal Matter was a short-lived punk rock band from Aberdeen, Washington. The group was formed in 1985 by Kurt Cobain, the future front man of the grunge band Nirvana, along with Dale Crover of The Melvins and drummer Greg Hokanson. Melvins members Buzz Osborne (also known as “King Buzzo”) and Mike Dillard appeared in a later version of the band during rehearsals the following year.

Songs from group’s sole recording session were issued as the Illiteracy Will Prevail demo tape. With the exception of the song “Spank Thru” the tracks from this session remain unreleased officially. A re-recording of “Downer” was also released on the first Nirvana album, Bleach. Illiteracy Will Prevail is the earliest documentation of Cobain’s songwriting in circulation, and helped Cobain to establish himself as a composer and performer among his peers in the underground rock scene in Washington state.

“I’ve dragged it out for six years. I didn’t wanna do it. I took a piece of the advance six years ago and then I was like ‘bad girl’, and Harpers is not mad at me but it’s time to turn it in so it’s gotta be done by Christmas this year. We’ll have three chapters turned in in about three weeks, childhood chapters but it’s about getting it all right.

So she (the interviewer) asked me the other day, ‘why did you break up Hole?’ And I can’t remember, I really can’t (laughs). So I had Eric from Hole to talk to her because he’ll remember. We were doing really good and we were getting Grammy nominated, doing studio stadiums, and why did I break it? I don’t know why! It really wasn’t drugs? (Dylan Jones: so you’re going to find out why you broke up Hole?) yeah, I’ll find out.

(The book) will be my entire life but with a cutoff… like I’m very sensitive about my love life and my personal life, so I don’t want much of that in it. I mean, the salacious stuff I don’t want in there because I’ve definitely had phases, I’m done with that, so I don’t really want that stuff in there. I have a certain anger that’s reserved for particular lawyers and accountants which I don’t think anyone cares, no one is going to care about that!

I don’t want to a do a poor little rich girl. People cannot relate to certain things and I want to make a really cool book, but that is also transparent and honest. People can relate to ambition, people can relate to stalking Andy Warhol and Lee Daniels, people can relate to certain things but then there are other things that people just can’t relate to. So, we will see. I’m writing it all down, you got me at a really tender moment, I just saw the outline literally yesterday… and my daughter is very private so her life after a certain age is off-limits and stuff like that.”

This is part 52 of an ongoing series where the kind folk of the music business reveal their favourite album of all time.

Ask people in the music industry the seemingly simple and straightforward question, “What is your favourite album of all time?” and you’ll find that it’s not always easy. After all, my industry peers listen to hundreds of albums a month and thousands of songs during that time. Because the question isn’t the best album of all time or the one that’s made them the most money in sales, or the most clicked-on review, but the one release they personally can’t live without, that one title they have two copies of in several formats, in case one breaks. It’s also about that album that for them has the best back stories and the one that has the most meaning in their lives.

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Paul Wilson, Owner/Vice President/General Manager, 105.7 WROX and AM 1450
Elton John, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
I love the variety of this disc, from the sadness of “Candle In the Wind” to pure energy of “Your Sister Can’t Dance” to the textures of “Funeral for a Friend/Love Lies Bleeding”. Throw in the hits like “Saturday Night’s Alright”, “Bennie and the Jets” and the title track and you’ve got more than an hour of solid entertainment.

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Paul Cantor, blogger
Ghostface, Supreme Clientele
Trying to explain exactly why you love something is hard to do — love isn’t explainable, it just is. And that’s how I feel about Supreme Clientele. On paper, it’s not an album you look at and think: this could be amazing. At the time of its release, Ghostface was merely another spoke on the Wu-Tang wheel, and seven years after the group debuted, that wheel had increasingly fallen off the track. But the record really caught everyone by surprise. The production eschewed what was then en vogue — syncopated, skittering drum tracks topped by melody-deficient synthesizer keystrokes — for soulful, neck-snapping beats; the rhymes fused stream-of-consciousness ramblings with Ghost Deini’s unique blend of street poetry. It was the Wu-Tang formula on the most premium of steroids. But that’s just a description of the album itself. Why it’s my favorite, why I love it — most of all, it’s because I’m from Staten Island, and in the late 90’s, after years of dominance, it felt like my hometown was on a real cold streak in the broader rap climate. Kids in my school, kids in my neighborhood, they’d moved on to Jay-Z, DMX, Noreaga, whatever was on DJ Clue mixtapes at the time. And then Ghostface came with the video for “Mighty Healthy,” and it felt like the streets — at least the streets where I was from — drew from that. The big, chunky “Synthetic Substitution” drum break, the minor-key loop, the chorus-less rhymes. It was a throwback to another era, before the bling and the bullshit. There was no fluff involved; the whole album reflects that ethos. Today, I can put it on and transport right back to the moment I first heard it. It’s a time in my life I rather enjoyed, it inspired a lot of what I’d go on to do in music. For that, Supreme Clientele will always be number one in my book.

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Jeff Long, Morning Host, Max 104.9
U2, Achtung Baby
Waiting for that release was three years in the making & it was a feeling of a kid at Christmas when i finally had it in my hands. From the opening note & distorted vocal sound of Zoo Station to the shimmering fade of Love Is Blindness, there is not a weak moment among the 12 tracks. Singles like One & Mysterious Ways were as good as anything they ever released & tracks like Ultra Violet (Light My Way) signaled a new sonic & lyrical breakthrough for a band already strong in those areas. An album that plays as well today as it did in 1991, Achtung Baby will always have a place in my musical heart & playlist!

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Douglas Wolk, Music Critic
World of Pooh, The Land of Thirst
The sole album by a late-’80s Bay Area guitar-bass-drums band: one of the bleakest things I’ve ever heard, and also one of the sweetest. It goes straight to very uncomfortable emotional places–so much longing, so much loathing–and bits of it are always pinwheeling around the back of my consciousness.

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Conor Bezane, Writer, Producer, Author
Nirvana, In Utero
It pounces. It pummels. It thwacks. In Utero is a jolt of nitro glycerin straight to your heart. Avant-garde. Rock ‘n’ roll. Pure and simple. The album is the unsung hero of Nirvana’s catalog. Kurt Cobain is the wizard of clause — and genius turns of phrase abound on In Utero. “Look on the bright side, suicide. Lost eyesight, I’m on your side,” he wails on “Milk It.” “Angel left wing, right wing broken wing. Lack of iron and/or sleeping… Obituary birthday, my scent is still here in my place of recovery.” When In Utero came out, I was 14 years old. I wanted to emulate Kurt, so I picked up a Fender Stratocaster. My dream of rockstardom was a dream deferred. But I did end up writing about rock. Listening to In Utero is not unlike viewing painter Edvard Munch’s famous work The Scream. You can feel his pain, his melancholy, his suffering, his hurt. The most ugly, beautiful album of all time.

Saturday Night Live has released a clip from a December 1979 episode in which a beautifully made-up David Bowie performed a theatrical version of his song The Man Who Sold the World, the title track of his third album. That’s Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias singing backup for him. Bowie and band were introduced by guest host, the former President of the United States (at least on The West Wing), Martin Sheen.

Fun Fact: In the wake of Nirvana’s cover on their MTV Unplugged in New York performance and release, Bowie, according to The Complete David Bowie book, bemoaned the fact that when he performed the number himself he would encounter “kids that come up afterwards and say, ‘It’s cool you’re doing a Nirvana song.’ And I think, ‘Fuck you, you little tosser!'”